Wine 101: What To Do With 'Forgotten' Wine

A scenario: you pick up an everyday bottle of white or red — let’s say between $15-30 — on the way home to have with dinner. When you get home you pop it on your wine rack, your basement fridge, or in a kitchen cupboard, and then something comes up and you don’t drink it, only to discover it months later — or longer.

What do you do with these forgotten wines? How long is too long to hold on to an “everyday”/less-expensive wine?

Most wines in the “everyday drinking” price point — including most wine sold on the My Wine Canada website — is in the $15-$30 price range, and is meant to be drunk relatively young.

How young? Well, anywhere from the moment you get through the door to around 18 months. Generally speaking, that’s a pretty safe age range for most whites and reds. Some more full-bodied whites and more tannic, structured red wines in this price point will certainly go for a couple of years or longer.

As Jake pointed out in a previous My Wine Canada Wine 101 post, the most important factors to aging a wine are temperature, humidity and vibration. If the wine’s been kept cool and still, it should be in good shape. (If your unopened bottle of wine is in your kitchen fridge, take it out and put it away somewhere cool and dark — the vibration from the motor will work against preserving the life of a wine.)

So, what to do with these poor forgotten wines? Well, the Internet is your friend — typically a website such as Cellartracker is a good place to find reviews of wines dating back a few years. You should also be able to snoop around online and learn a bit about the wine region’s vintage, and many winery websites offer some technical info on back vintages.

Look, the best thing to do is to pop these wines open and drink them. If a wine’s over the hill, it will never get better with age; if it’s still got life left in it, well, congratulations… enjoy.

But wait! There’s also a chance to learn with these lonely, overlooked bottles. Buy a newer vintage of said wine and do a side-by-side tasting to experience how a wine evolves over time. What has changed? What flavours have emerged/dropped off?


Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.

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